How to Get 120V From a 220V Line

by Jason Van Steenwyk
Most common wall outlets in the U.S. put out 120 volts. But 220 volt outlets are common abroad.

Most common wall outlets in the U.S. put out 120 volts. But 220 volt outlets are common abroad.

Voltage is an electrical term used to describe electrical pressure, or power. Most large appliances in the United States and Canada are wired to run on 220 volts, plus or minus 10 percent. However, it may come to pass that you need to run equipment designed to run on 120 volts from a 220 volt line. This is particularly common when Americans and Canadians travel to foreign countries where walls are routinely wired with 220 volt outlets, rather than the 120 volt outlets that are the norm in the U.S.

Consult the electrical requirements on the appliance or other electrical device. Note whether it uses alternating current or direct current. Some equipment requires no power conversion, as it will run on either 220V or 110V. In these cases, you don't need additional electronic devices, other than a plug converter. If it runs on direct current, you will likely have to change the voltage as well as change the current from alternating current to direct current.

Purchase a transformer. The transformer is a device that magnifies or lowers voltage, based on the number of coils around a magnetic field. Look for a transformer with a VA rating, or volt-ampere rating, that is at least 30 percent higher than the wattage requirement of whatever electric device you are running.

Plug the transformer into the wall. When you purchase the transformer, look for a plug compatible with the outlet to which you are planning to connect it.

Plug the electrical device into the transformer. The device should work normally at this point.

Purchase a power supply, or power pack. These devices convert electricity from alternating current to direct current. Ensure that the voltage output rating on the power pack matches the voltage requirement on the electric device you are plugging in to it. In some cases, power packs have a selector switch that allows you to specify the voltage levels generated by the power supply.

Tip

  • check Do not attempt to use a converter. Converters do not fully convert a 220V/50Hz outlet to western standards. If you measure the output with a voltmeter, you will still see a 220 volt output, according to Jonathan Z. Kremer, author of MegaVolt, a website devoted to educating the public on electrical information in Israel.

About the Author

Jason Van Steenwyk has been writing professionally since 1998. A former staff reporter for "Mutual Funds Magazine," he has been published in "Wealth and Retirement Planner," "Annuity Selling Guide," "Registered Rep." "Bankrate.com" and "Senior Market Advisor." He holds a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from the University of Southern California.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera electric outlet image by Dawn Williams from Fotolia.com